The young, naked dancer turns his back to the cheering crowd and presents his crunchy butt. Water drips from a shower onto his muscles and shaved chest. He rubs a shower sponge with pleasure on his broad shoulders. The foam runs down his back, between both ass cheeks. He leans against the shower wall and exposes his erection just moments later. For the grand finale he grabs a towel and wraps it around his limb. It looks like a tree trunk is dangling between its legs.
It’s Saturday evening at the Raidd, a bar in the Marais district of Paris. The area is very popular with the LGBTQ community. The establishment is one of the linchpins of gay nightlife. The reason: there are nude models lounging in shower stalls in front of an audience.
The transparent shower cubicles are embedded in the walls of the raid and are illuminated with neon lights. Different dancers can be seen every evening, performing their wet show in front of tourists, regulars and a sea of smartphones. Gay men make up the majority of the audience, but there are also heterosexual couples and many women in raidd.
We spent two weekends in the bar and accompanied the two dancers Ryan and Andrea in their everyday work.
A steep staircase leads up to Ryan’s tiny wardrobe just above the showers. After his performance, the dancer quickly changed and is now relaxing in shorts and a tank top. The steam rising from the showers makes it difficult to breathe in the dressing room.
Like most of the Raidd “Shower Boys”, Ryan is heterosexual. The 31-year-old actually works as a fireman, but seven years ago a friend took him to the bar. After a few drinks, someone asked Ryan to get into one of the showers.
Although he said he was very nervous and clumsy, the bar operators invited Ryan to a casting for a permanent job after his courage test. Since then, the firefighter has been working regularly in raidd and earns 100 euros plus tip per performance. This is how photographers became aware of him and offered him model orders.
“None of this was planned,” says Ryan. “I never thought I would do something like that. Actually, I’m pretty reserved.” It also took a while for Ryan to feel really comfortable in the shower: “At first it made me nervous for the guests to look at me. There was no erection in there.” Today, however, he simply switched to his role because he knew how well his appearances were well received. “It still gives me a lot, even if I sometimes feel like I’m only part of the decoration,” he says.
Despite the whole routine, everything does not go smoothly for Ryan on some evenings. Then he has to tie a condom like a pressure bandage around the penis to control blood flow and really get an erection.
Ryan’s firefighting colleagues are unaware of their comrade’s second job. He describes the atmosphere in his fire station as “macho”, there a homosexual could never stand by his homosexuality. Ryan fears a negative reaction when he talks about his part-time job. “I really live in two worlds,” he says.
Once the dancer was almost blown: a guest found out what Ryan did full-time and reported him to the fire station. Ryan denied everything and canceled all of his appearances in the months that followed. He is now only in the shower on Saturday evening.
Despite his few appearances, Ryan has to grapple with guests who think they can later sexually harass him in the bar because they saw him naked. “Of course, you’re just a piece of meat here,” says the dancer. “At the beginning you think that’s a good thing too. But at some point you realize that some people only come to sleep with the dancers. It is similar to firefighters: You have to cope with the clichés about your profession.”
Andrea is preparing for the evening in the basement of the Raidd, wearing the same large gold chain that dangles around his neck during the performances. The 30-year-old homosexual from Milan started raidd six years ago after the relationship with his ex-boyfriend broke up. One of the bartenders spotted Andrea at the gym and told him that he had the perfect body to perform in the shower. Andrea briefly interrupted his dance career when he came back with his ex. After the separation again, however, it went straight on. “I needed that – both to forget him and to make him jealous,” says Andrea.
Just like Ryan, Andrea has a second job: he works in the e-commerce area. “I dance to escape normalcy,” he explains. As a self-styled couch potato that does not drink alcohol, Andrea has the opportunity to get out and meet new people through his part-time job. Basically, he wanted his appearances to be confirmed by other people: “Although I don’t like to be the center of attention, the whole thing has a narcissistic side for me,” says Andrea. “I really put my foot down four or five times a week in the gym. I can then present my body here – and the guests find me really sexy. It’s very important in the gay community.”
According to Andreas, his first appearances in the shower were very uncomfortable. Since then, however, he has developed into a professional. Today he can be seen four times a night under the water jet. But he only gets his penis out every second time. “My erection doesn’t last that long under the running water,” explains the dancer. “But being naked doesn’t bother me anymore. You hardly see the audience through the shower walls anyway. Actually, it’s like taking a shower at home – just a lot sexier and with more soap.”
As he says, Andrea is as popular with men as it is with women. He doesn’t really care about uninvited touches: “It’s kind of strange, but I’ve got used to it,” he says. “Then I just push the guys’ hands away. But women also like to reach out. A bit annoying, but it works.”
After all, it’s time for Andrea to take a shower and give the crowd what they want. After the show, he strolls topless through the bar and is busy with his cell phone. The dancer draws a lot of attention. Three men ask him if they can take a picture with him. Another fan puts his hand around his neck and wants to kiss him. “I like you best!” He calls out. A young woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, approaches. “She is always here,” says Andrea with a smile, “and knocks on the window of the shower and shows me her breasts. I always have to laugh.”